VATICAN CITY, MAY 10, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the message that Benedict XVI sent to the participants in the 14th General Assembly of Italian Catholic Action, held in Rome from May 6-8 on the theme “To Live the Faith, to Love Life: The Educational Commitment of Catholic Action.”
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Dear Friends of Italian Catholic Action!
You are gathered in your General Assembly on the theme: “To Live the Faith, to Love Life: the Educational Commitment of Catholic Action,” to reaffirm your love for Christ and the Church and to renew your association’s path in the commitment to assume fully your lay responsibility at the service of the Gospel. You are adolescents, young people and adults who place themselves at the disposition of the Lord in the Church with a solemn, public commitment in communion with the Pastors, to give good witness in all the realms of life. Your presence is omnipresent in parishes, in families, in neighborhoods, in social environments: a presence that you live every day in the aspiration to holiness. Your children and girls and boys, adolescents and young people want to be festive and happy, generous and courageous, as Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati.
You have the impetus of dedication in the building of the city and courage of service in institutions, as Vittorio Bachelet, as Blessed Alberto Marvelli, as Giuseppe Toniolo, who will soon be proclaimed Blessed. In your plan of human and Christian formation you wish to be faithful friends of Christ, as the Blesseds Pierina Morosini and Antonia Mesina, as the Venerable Armida Barelli. You want to revive our communities with children fascinating by the purity of their hearts, as Antonietta Meo, capable also of attracting their parents to Jesus. When I receive your young people on the occasion of Christmas or the month of peace, I am always in admiration of the authenticity with which they communicate the joy of the Lord.
In October of last year I met with your adolescents and young people, committed and joyful, lovers of true liberty that leads them to a generous life, to a direct apostolate. They have before them the example of men and women who are happy with their faith, who wish to support the new generations with love, with wisdom and with prayer, who wish to build patiently fabrics of community life and address the most urgent problems of daily life of the family: the defense of life, the suffering of separations and of abandonment, solidarity in misfortunes, acceptance of the poor and of the stateless. You are followed by assistant presbyters who know well what it means to educate to holiness. In the dioceses you are called to collaborate with your bishops, in a constant, faithful and direct manner, in the life and mission of the Church. All this is not born spontaneously, but with a generous response to God’s call to live Baptism, the dignity of being Christians, with full responsibility. Because of this, you organize yourselves in associations with specific ideals and qualities as indicated by Vatican Council II: an association that has the apostolic objective of the Church, which collaborates with the hierarchy, which manifests itself as an organic body and which receives from the Church an explicit mandate (cf. Decree Apostolicam Actuositatem, 20). On the basis of what you are, I would like, dear friends, following the steps of my Venerable Predecessors, to entrust to you some indications of commitment.
1. The Educational Perspective
In the line marked out by the bishops of the churches located in Italy, you are particularly called to value your educational vocation. Catholic Action is a qualified educational force, sustained by good instruments, by a centenary tradition. You know how to educate children and young people with the ACR, you know how to carry out educational projects with adolescents and young people, you are capable of giving permanent formation for adults. Your action will be that much more incisive if, as you already do, you work even more among yourselves with a profoundly unitary point of view and favor collaboration with other educational forces, whether ecclesial or civil. To educate it is necessary to go beyond the occasion, the immediate moment, and to build, with the collaboration of all, a plan of Christian life based on the Gospel and on the Magisterium of the Church, placing at the center an integral vision of the person. Your Formative Project is valid for many Christians and men of good will, above all if they can see in you, models of Christian life, of generous and joyful commitment, of profound interiority and ecclesial communion.
2. The Proposal of Holiness
Your associations are gymnasiums of holiness, in which you train yourselves with full dedication in the cause of the Kingdom of God, in a profoundly evangelical system of life which characterizes you as lay believers in places of daily life. This calls for intense prayer, either community or personal, continuous listening to the Word of God, and an assiduous sacramental life. It is necessary to make the term “holiness” a an ordinary — not exceptional — word, which does not designate only heroic states of Christian life, but which indicates in the reality of every day, a decisive answer and an openness to the action of the Holy Spirit.
3. Formation to the Cultural and Political Commitment
Holiness also means for you to give yourselves to the service of the common good according to Christian principles, offering, in the life of the city, qualified, free, rigorous presences in behavior, faithful to the ecclesial magisterium and oriented to the good of all. Hence, formation in the cultural and political commitment represents for you an important work that calls for thought molded by the Gospel, able to debate ideas and valid proposals for the laity. This is a commitment that is fulfilled above all, beginning with daily life, by mothers and father who struggle in the challenges of the education of their children, by workers and students, by centers of culture oriented to the service of the growth of all. Italy has gone through difficult historical periods and has come out of them reinforced, also thanks to the unconditional dedication of the Catholic laity, committed in politics and in institutions. Today the country’s public life calls for a further and generous response on the part of believers, so that they will put their own capacities and spiritual, intellectual and moral forces at the disposition of all.
4. An Ample Commitment in the Great Commotion of the World and of the Mediterranean
Finally, I ask you to be generous, hospitable, solidaristic and above all communicators of the beauty of the faith. Many men, women and young people put themselves in touch with our world, which they know superficially, blinded by illusory images, and who need not to lose hope, not to sell their dignity. They are in need of bread, of work, of liberty, of justice, of peace, of recognition of their own inalienable rights as Children of God. They need the faith, and we can help them, respecting their religious convictions, in a free and serene exchange, offering with simplicity, frankness and zeal our faith in Jesus Christ.
In the building of Italy’s history, Catholic Action — as I already wrote to the President of the Republic on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the Unity of Italy — had a great role, making an effort to keep united love of the homeland and faith in God. Spread throughout the national territory, today it can also contribute to create a popular, widespread, positive culture, and form responsible persons, capable of placing themselves at the service of the country, as in the period in which the Constitutional Charter was elaborated and the country was reconstructed after World War II. Catholic Action can help Italy to respond to its peculiar vocation, placed in the Mediterranean, crossroads of cultures, of aspirations, of tensions that call for great strength of communion, of solidarity and o
f generosity. Italy has always offered to close and distant peoples, the wealth of its culture and its faith, of its art and its thought. Today you, lay Christians, are called to offer with conviction, the beauty of your culture and the reasons for your faith, beyond fraternal solidarity, so that Europe will be up to the task of the present challenge of the age.
I address to all the assembly my most cordial greeting; I greet the president, professor Franco Miano, the general assistant, Monsignor Domenico Sigalini, and all the delegates, and to each and every one of the great family of Catholic Action I send a special apostolic blessing.
From the Vatican, May 6, 2011
BENEDICTUS PP. XVI[Translation by ZENIT]